Recent investigations on sex determination mechanisms by researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has shed light on the complexity of this selection.
The findings were published in the PLOS Genetics, an online journal for scientific publications.
The research gives us better insights into the sexual development of humans, improving scope for better diagnostic and genetic counseling methods.
Factors Influencing Gonad Development
Sexual development in mammals is a complex and long procedure that begins right at the stage of conception with the determination of sex at the genetic level. During the development of the fetus the transition from genetic to organ takes place.
The main aim of the study was to understand the initial steps of sexual development among mammals. The tools that they considered important in this study were IGF (insulin like growth factors) and related receptors that are known for regulation of growth and metabolism.
Thus they will lead to the development and growth patterns of male and female organs in the species. In other words the study wants to prove that reproductive and growth functions are interrelated. Insulin and IGFs have a major role to play in sex determination and also reproductive health of an individual.
Study on Mice
The researchers used genetically modified mice to study the impact of insulin and IGF hormones on sex determination. For this they genetically manipulated and blocked the receptors of these hormones in the embryos of the experimental mice. It was observed that at the time of sex determination the gonads of these embryos did not develop into full fledged sex organs (testes or ovaries). They remained in the undifferentiated state.
This finding and revelation is a major step towards understanding the bases of sex determination that could help speedy and accurate detection of genetic disorders in the embryonic stage and help frame better guidelines for genetic counseling to those with skewed hormonal ratio. It might even help cure such conditions at a genetic level.